Blessed Maria Restituta: Hero of the Holocaust
Today we celebrate Helen Kafka, better known as Blessed Maria Restituta.
Helen Kafka was born in 1894 to a shoemaker and grew up in Vienna, Austria. She initially worked as a salesgirl and then as an assistant caregiver at the Lainz public hospital, which brought her into contact with the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity. At the age of 20, she decided to join the Order and took the name Restituta, after a 4th century Christian martyr.
In 1919, she began working as a surgical nurse at the Moulding hospital in Austria. When the Germans took over the country, she became a local opponent of the Nazi regime. Her conflict with them escalated after they ordered her to remove all the crucifixes she had hung up in each room of a new hospital wing.
Sister Maria Restitua refused and she was arrested by the Gestapo in 1942. She was sentenced to death for “aiding and abetting the enemy in the betrayal of the fatherland and for plotting high treason.”
Martin Bormann decided that her execution would provide “effective intimidation” for other opponents of the Nazis. She spent her remaining time in prison caring for other prisoners; even the Communist prisoners spoke well of her. She was offered her freedom if she would abandon her religious community; but she refused.
Blessed Maria was beheaded March 30, 1943 in Vienna. Pope John Paul II beatified her on June 21, 1998.
“I have lived for Christ; I want to die for Christ.”
~ Blessed Maria’s last recorded words